For anyone who thought that CNN’s news programming could be trusted to deliver news without a visceral hatred for President Trump, Friday morning’s despicable attempts to pin blame for the New Zealand terror attacks on him should dismantle any and all skepticism.
From 6:00 a.m. Eastern to 12:00 p.m. Eastern, analysts, commentators, and hosts repeatedly takes such as “[t]here is a one man who pulled the trigger here” inside two Christchurch mosques, but they very quickly pivoted, using transition words like “but” to then place blame on the President due to the thug’s citation of the President in a screed CNN has heavily promoted throughout the day.
Former Obama official Samantha Vinograd was one of the first CNNers to go there, demanding that there “be a strategic discussion about the root drivers of this attack” because the language in his screed emanated from “too many leaders mouths around the world.” She also thought Trump’s CPAC speech sounded like it came from Hitler, so there you go.
Also in the 6:00 a.m. Eastern hour, co-host Alisyn Camerota and Clinton administration official and political commentator Joe Lockhart used a Trump quote from a Breitbart interview to blame the President (click “expand”):
CAMEROTA: Joe, you were so struck by what the President said that you've written an op-ed about it. On this day of global violence where 49 people are dead because — I mean I'm only going by the gunman's notes in his manifesto if this is really his, he is inspired by the white supremacist movement, he's inspired by violent rhetoric — what are your thoughts when you hear President Trump say that?
LOCKHART: Well, I mean, very simply that words matter and this is the President of the United States and it doesn't matter what his motivations are, people listen and in some cases they act upon it. I — you can't draw any connection at this point, but —
CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, hold on, Joe. I mean, of course we can't draw a connection that the President isn't somehow responsible.
CAMEROTA: However, I'm not drawing the connection, the gunman here —
CAMEROTA: — the gunman at the Tree of Life Synagogue and the gunman, or whatever, the psychopath who sent the bombs to CNN, who had the Trump pictures plastered all over his van, they're the ones who are drawing the connection about what their motivation was and where they first heard the heated rhetoric.
Talk about fearmongering.
Co-host John Berman had a few moments we’ll dive into. Here’s one as, at around 7:06 a.m. Eastern, he told chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward that the President’s rhetoric has been “weaponized” to commit to violence.
Before we go back to Berman, a round-up wouldn’t be complete without softballs, so here’s two Camerota to Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) (click “expand”):
You mean the President talking about it. I mean I know it's hard to call this out. I've heard this from a guest this morning, they're having a hard time calling this out for some reason.
I mean, we don't have to guess, actually, at this. We don't have to connect the dots ourselves. This is what the suspects say. This guy put out, according to authorities, put out this manifesto where he connects the dots between the rhetoric that he likes to hear and his violent action. I'm wondering what you think the President's quote to Breitbart that he said and I just want to read it to you. This was from this week. He said: “I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump, I have the tough people, but they don't play it tough until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.” How do you interpret that?
Our friends at Grabien fished out part of this next exchange between Berman and former Obama official/CNN analyst Juliette Kayyem in which she furthered Berman’s show-long narrative about Trump’s connection tothe gunman (click “expand,” emphasis mine):
KAYYEM: Well, I think what they do is they are given credence — and I'm being careful here — of validity. Justification for their horrible violent thoughts because it's amplified in the public space, either by our President or reporters or analysts on TV or in literature. So, being very careful — the President is not responsible for what happened in New Zealand, but — right — absolutely, but the President's language to date has been irresponsible knowing the groundwork of white radicalization is going on worldwide right now. In other words, he is our leader and showing responsibility would be to not mimic that language of, as you said, displacement, replacement, and what I've been calling this zero-sum game. That's the difference right now is that this literature. These men are motivated — white men are motivated, essentially, by a sense that the presence of the other is literally a physical harm to them. It is a zero-sum game. One final thing on the White House statement. They will be parsed. We need to call this terrorist incident what it is. It was an attack on Muslims. It was an attack on Islam on a faith — on a great faith.
BERMAN: [T]here is one person responsible for this mass killing and it's the person who pulled the trigger inside these mosques, and there’s nothing more horrific than killing people while they're at prayer, but I just don’t want to dance around it. CNN is being very careful. We’re not putting the words from the manifesto up on the screen. We don’t want to do this guy’s work for him. But to ignore them is doing a disservice as well because this killer is using the language of invasion. I have seen “invasion” in ads produced by the President of the United States’s campaign. So what do white supremacists hear? Now, I don't know why the President is saying it, but what do they hear when the President of the United States uses words like invasion?
Ah, saying you need to be “careful,” to only then more indirectly state what you really want to say? Smart move!
Saturday morning CNN host Michael Smerconish also went there in the next block and, again, both he and Camerota asserted they weren’t blaming the President when, well, they were (click “expand”):
SMERCONISH: Can we — can we put this in the broader context of the worldwide issue that you've been covering all morning long? Words have consequences and those of us who have microphones afforded to us on a daily basis because we're in the media or because we're elected officials or because we are celebrities need forever to be mindful of who is out there and watching, and that not all who are watching are at all times playing with a full deck and that's where he comes up short time and time again. I'm not assigning blame for what happened in New Zealand today but it's a reminder to me of the responsibility that goes with having celebrity status.
DANA BASH: So well said.
CAMEROTA: Dana, I mean — I mean, Dana, listen, I know Michael’s not assigning blame and that is totally fair and makes sense, but, the manifesto that authorities are saying at the moment are linked to this gunman, he is explaining what the connections are between the rhetoric — and the violent rhetoric and how he feels of his actions.
Perhaps the most balanced exchange came in the following hour as Berman squared off against Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL). Kinzinger has always come across as mild-mannered and moderate, but Berman’s narrative was not something he was going to roll with.
When Berman suggested that we pray “for God to change people’s language” in a jab at the President, Kinzinger must have had enough, informing him that “God needs to change people's hearts” and “their language, but you cannot put this on President Trump.”
Berman pushed back and so the duel was on. Here’s the transcript from the remainder of their exchange because it’s worth reading (click “expand,” emphasis mine):
BERMAN: I'm not. I’m not putting it on President Trump. There is a one man who pulled the trigger here.
BERMAN: The person giving a sign of allegiance to President Trump is the killer here. He calls him a symbol of white identity. The language he uses in this manifesto is all about invaders. It is all about invaders, which is similar language to the killer at the synagogue in Pittsburgh. It's also language President Trump used in a campaign ad before the midterm election. The word “invader” means something to white supremacists around the world. Why?
KINZINGER: So, I think, again, to make the connection for the President to say, for instance, ‘I’m concerned with illegal immigration’ —
BERMAN: He says invaders.
KINZINGER: — hold on. To say that and then to go to a guy willing to kill 50 people, he may make the connection and say, “President Trump is my idol.” That doesn’t put it on President Trump. I don’t know what a sick man that would decide to kill 49 people innocently was thinking. I don’t have any idea, frankly, what was in his mind, but what I know this is. It cannot be connected. We cannot sit here and say, “What is it President Trump is doing that’s somehow triggering these people?” This is an evil man that made a decision to murder 49 people and that is on him. Frankly, the evil in his heart.
BERMAN: If this monster is hearing something in the word “invader” and the President is using that word, can the President really not do anything?
KINZINGER: Well, I think, look, the President can come out and reaffirm, as he did in his statement and as we’ll see on Twitter where he’s like this is disgusting and wrong, he can say it in his verbal language, but for somebody to be triggered to evil and put it in some manifesto and then the President says things like, look, I don't agree with all the president's things on immigration — I want to be clear.
BERMAN: Do you agree with the invasion language?
KINZINGER: No. I don’t think it’s an invasion. I think there are things when it comes drug cartels and human trafficking.
BERMAN: And you’ve just been at the border. I know and I’ve heard you talk about that. I have never heard you use the word invader.
BERMAN: I'm telling you what these people are saying.
BERMAN: And he’s using the word, I mean, the title of the manifesto is The Great Replacement. Where have we heard replacement? I heard it in Charlottesville when those white supremacists were chanting “Jews will not replace us.”
BERMAN: People that the President called very fine people. You know, Twitter is everywhere.
KINZINGER: I agree, look.
BERMAN: Television is everywhere and if you are a monster and hear the President of the United States say that what are you supposed to do?
KINZINGER: So, I’m not — I’m not defending all of the President's language on this stuff. If you look back to the Holocaust where six million Jews were killed and Hitler basically brought a bunch of people into evil thinking to do what they did, that was way before President Trump. This anti — this hate for people whether it's religion, whether it’s race has existed since the beginning of humanity. This person — this disgusting animal is evil and if President trump's language triggered him, that wasn’t intentional. It wasn’t President Trump triggering. It was just saying, though, this is a disgusting person that frankly deserves, I think, to die. I'm not sure what his future is in New Zealand.
BERMAN: Does the President need to stop — if people are perceiving the language to mean something, does he need to stop using it?
KINZINGER: Yeah, again, I'm not going to paint the connection, but I do think that the President —
BERMAN: But you can tell the President to stop using it.
KINZINGER: Yeah, I think the President shouldn't use terms like invasion and hordes. But I also think, though, that that doesn't mean he can't be passionate about the fact that he wants to stop illegal immigration.
BERMAN: Alright. You're as passionate as anyone I’ve ever met.
KINZINGER: But again —
BERMAN: You’re as passionate as anyone I’ve ever met on this issue.
KINZINGER: I am.
BERMAN: And you just went to the border
BERMAN: And you came back I haven't heard you use the word invasion.
KINZINGER: But I — again, I think, though, saying, it’s one thing to say change your language or use it differently, but the connection cannot be made. I firmly believe. You cannot make a connection between what was said and what was done.
BERMAN: I — I’m not saying. He’s making — the killer made the connection.
KINZINGER: Yeah, he’s also a disgusting animal who killed 49 people.
BERMAN: He's absolutely a disgusting animal here who’s hearing something. He is hearing something and I'm just telling you what he's saying.
BERMAN: All right.
This tired narrative meant to alienate and ostracize those who support the President continued right before the top of the hour with Bash and senior political analyst John Avlon and my colleague Kristine Marsh has an excellent write-up on that here.
Unfortunately, things continued. During CNN Newsroom, New York Times contributing opinion writer Wajahat Ali asserted that the gunman’s worldview “has been mainstreamed by Republican elected officials” and he cited the racist views of Congressman Steve King (R-IA) to represent the GOP and that Trump’s criticisms of George Soros were “anti-Semitic.”
Despite the fact that he had to be corrected about whether the President had commented on the attacks, Ali kept the narrative moving by blaming Breitbart:
But it came late, Poppy. It came late cause last night when this was happening, you know what it was tweeting out? He tweeted a Breitbart article and Breitbart is a site for promoting and mainstreaming much of this anti-immigrant, anti-black, anti-Muslim sentiment the past few years[.]
And going lastly to At This Hour, Ward repeatedly a line of thought from her New Day hits, which was that “some of the tropes and some of the themes is that some of these have now become part of our mainstream political discourse in the U.S., in many countries in Europe” in a direct nod to the President and, well, those on the right in Europe.